Belinda is based on the historical Arabella Fermor, a member of Pope’s circle of prominent Roman Catholics. Robert, Lord Petre (the Baron in the poem) had precipitated a rift between their two families by snipping off a lock of her hair.

Read about another story with characters based on real people to make political statements in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

The Baron

This is the pseudonym for the historical Robert, Lord Petre, the young gentleman in Pope’s social circle who offended Arabella Fermor and her family by cutting off a lock of her hair. In the poem’s version of events, Arabella is known as Belinda.


The historical basis for the Caryl character is John Caryll, a friend of Pope and of the two families that had become estranged over the incident the poem relates. It was Caryll who suggested that Pope encourage a reconciliation by writing a humorous poem.


The muse who, according to classical convention, inspires poets to write their verses


Belinda’s lapdog


Belinda’s guardian sylph, who oversees an army of invisible protective deities


The chief gnome, who travels to the Cave of Spleen and returns with bundles of sighs and tears to aggravate Belinda’s vexation


The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s earrings


The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s watch


The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s “fav’rite Lock”


A woman in attendance at the Hampton Court party. She lends the Baron the pair of scissors with which he cuts Belinda’s hair, and later delivers a moralizing lecture.


Belinda’s friend, named for the Queen of the Amazons and representing the historical Gertrude Morley, a friend of Pope’s and the wife of Sir George Browne (rendered as her “beau,” Sir Plume, in the poem). She eggs Belinda on in her anger and demands that the lock be returned.

Sir Plume

Thalestris’s “beau,” who makes an ineffectual challenge to the Baron. He represents the historical Sir George Browne, a member of Pope’s social circle.